‘Living with Uncertainty’ Meditations: 40. Q.2. Can I trust the Bible?
1 Tim 3:16,17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Continuation: In the previous study, at one point I used the words, ‘We can read the Bible, study it in depth, find out all about its origins etc., and become completely assured as to it veracity, its authenticity and accuracy.” One might have thought that such an exercise should, after all these years of so much scholarship and so many books written in this subject, be unnecessary, that there should be do doubts, no uncertainties about these things.
Concerns: But the reality is that a new generation comes along that displays serious concerns (my concerns about them, not their concerns!) that have been having a negative effect in recent years on parts of the Christian community, invoking uncertainties. My concerns are:
- Inadequate Historical Reading: These people clearly have not read the incredible writings of such people as Josh McDowell (yes, even the updated version ‘The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict’ was right back in 1999! but still stands as a monument to apologetics), have not bothered to investigate the wealth of knowledge and scholarship that goes to being assured about the origins of the Bible.
- Inadequate Apologetics Reading: There is also obviously an absence of reading of such great writers as Norman Geisler and many other scholars who seek to make sense of the Bible and come up with legitimate answers.
- Inadequate Bible Reading: The Liberal critics who appear to be having a voice in parts of the church today (haven’t they always been there in the background) demonstrate two worrying characteristics: first, their knowledge of what the Bible says as a whole, seems very limited and, second, they appear to come from a materialistic stance of unbelief that question the very basics of belief in the divinely supernatural (no miracles, no prophecy etc.).
From these inadequacies, unbelief spreads but it demonstrates two things: first an absence of knowledge in such semi-believers and, when it is accepted by the Christian community, second, a poverty of teaching in many churches to equip believers so they know a) what the Bible is, b) it’s origins, and c) why is can be trusted for accuracy and authenticity.
But??? But, you may be saying, you have not been giving me helps to trust the Bible. Well, actually, indirectly, yes I have. I have put before you suggestions of approach, scholars to search out, books to read that will give you understanding of why you can trust the origins of the Bible, trust the historical content of the Bible and its general accuracy. Beyond that – and those previous things are massive areas of study which, if you aren’t a great reader, you will have to trust me about, and maybe ask your pastor, minister, leader, to teach on – the biggest issue is will YOU become a Bible scholar? All I mean by that is will you (and any questioner you find yourself with) take the trouble to read the Bible? I recently heard of one local young woman who read the entire Bible in the 40 days of Lent and is now going to reread it in the chronological order (not the book order) that things happened. There is someone of credibility!
In approaching understanding the Bible may I suggest you need to set yourself a curriculum of study: a) catch the ‘big picture’ of what the Bible is all about – see my series ‘Big Picture Studies’, b) focus on Jesus in the Gospels – read a Gospel a week, c) catch something of the historical narrative of the Old Testament – my series ‘Struggles of Israel’ does something of this.
That is just a start to catch something of the overall content of the Bible. I have been reading and studying and writing on the Bible for approaching forty years. You can trust it and the more you read it the more assured you will be about it, and about your faith.
It’s claims: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. God breathed? “given to us by inspiration from God” (the Living Bible paraphrase version). That is the ultimate summary of what the Bible is.
The Problems: But it is sixty-six books, can that apply to them all? Yes, why not? That doesn’t mean that every book is full of truth. Job, one of the most difficult to read, comprises largely of conversations between Job and his three ‘friends’. The only trouble is, they don’t always speak truth. Oops! Then there is Ecclesiastes, the best read for modern cynics because it shows the hopelessness of life without God, the testimony of a jaded Solomon late in his life when he has allowed himself, after a life of mega-success, to be seduced away from a relationship with God and now feels helpless. Yes, see the truth it conveys. Then there are records of bad people. That is not the Bible justifying them, but simply revealing them for that they are.
Then there are multiple viewpoints that I so often liken to a variety of reporters at a car or train crash, each reporting from their viewpoint. Oh yes, God inspired each of these ‘reporters’ to write what they saw from their perspective and that ends up creating an amazing ‘painting by numbers’ end work that is brilliant! So yes, there is a human element, a human dimension, in it all but that just adds to the beauty of what is there – or at least it does when you read it!
Attitude: Possibly there is no book like the Bible that reveals the sort of people, the sort of heart we may have. If you come with a critical, jaded, distorted perspective of life, as can be seen in some well known atheists, you will read and walk away still criticising because you just couldn’t see it. However, if you approach it with the heart of a learner, a seeker, you will indeed find a book that thrills you with its wonder, its truths and so much more. Yes, sometimes those truths are uncomfortable. I have often written about how the nation of Israel shows up the sinfulness and stupidity of mankind. It is not that their history is unique (although it is) but it is they just show us what we’re all like. They are given amazing revelations of God, His words, and His will, which initially they receive joyfully, but as time passes they drift away from God into superstitious folly that brings self-destruction – just like us. It’s all a matter of attitude.
On one hand there is the need to use your mind, but on the other there is the need to be childlike in having a simple, straight-forward approach to this unique book. I am sorry if this ‘study’ was not what you expected, because I did not take you though detailed studies, but I have:
- directed you to the resources,
- challenged you to check your heart and your attitude, and
- challenged you to set a life-long goal of reading the Bible
and IF you will do these things, you will not regret it and find that you have been “completely assured as to it veracity, its authenticity and accuracy.” Moreover, you will have been fed and nourished and will find that you look at the world in a new way, where so many of its uncertainties are put into perspective and are removed as worries. Enjoy!